When I was at my fattest I was losing hope with life. I didn’t feel in control of my own destiny and spent most of waking life indoors, paranoid to leave the house in case others judged me for being so fat.
I had no life whatsoever.
Now that I’ve been running for over 2 years, my mental health has never been as strong since being an adult. I go out regularly, have lots of self confidence and genuinely don’t give a shit what others think of me!
Running And Combating Helplessness And Self Pity
If you have depression the tendency is to fall into the way of helplessness over time.
You start to feel that there’s no way out of your situation. That you’ll always feel bad. That you’ll always feel inadequate. That the future is gonna be even more grim than the past has been.
Running obliterates negative thought cycles like this.
When you start to run it’s impossible to feel helpless. Why? Well by running you are helping yourself.
Every mile you cover, you’re doing that little bit more for your well being. Every further mile that you go, the better your life will be in the long run.
You mightn’t recognize it at the time, and sure the first few months might hurt a lot, but you are improving and getting better.
There will be runs where you’ll feel helpless and give into self pity afterward, especially when it seems like your body is broken.
It’s OK if this happens, all that’s important is that you give running another go.
Running And The Self Esteem That Comes From Being A Runner
As I’ve said before, I never really knew who I was as a person when I was at my fattest and angriest.
I defined myself by what I hated, not by what I loved. I became one of those annoyingly angry atheists who would rant for hours about how there was no God and everything in life was inherently miserable.
It’s sad that it took my dad’s illness for me to reassess my life.
When I started running, I stopped defining myself by what I was opposed to and tried to gain meaning from what I loved or believed in.
Since then, my transformation has been amazing. My self esteem has improved endlessly as I now identify myself as a runner and have a sense of belonging in that crowd.
In terms of religious belief, I’m still an atheist but I try to respect everyone’s journey. When you finally come to terms with what Atheism means you recognize that we’re all inherently alone and in the same boat together.
I’m kinda ashamed of how I’d try to cynically destroy the peace that others receive through their religion.
I guess I was jealous that I didn’t have that peace. Now I do have it and it comes from running!
Running And Mental Toughness Benefits
One of the greatest things I struggled with initially was my mind capitulating during a run.
I’d be jogging along and everything would be brilliant and then one single thought would sour my mind and I’d feel like shit for the rest of the run.
Over time I recognised this as a sign from my body that I was running too fast.
Whenever a negative thought now surfaces I first challenge it and then slow down. Once it disappears it’s typically replaced by a neutral or a positive thought and I then increase my pace accordingly.
When you manage to run through a negative thought, they stop having so much power over your mind.
If you’re depressed it’s normal to be afraid of your own thoughts. As a runner you learn that all thoughts are fleeting and can be overcome with some determination.
Running For Anger & Stress Management
If you work 9 to 5 and experience a lot of stress in your job, then it can be difficult to find a recourse for all of your frustration.
Before I started running I would bottle up all of this stress and drink alcohol to ‘calm my nerves’. All this did was repress my emotions and lead to a meltdown whenever I had a few too many beers to drink.
Nowadays if I’m stressed out there’s nothing better than a run to ease my mind. I find that the harder I run when I’m upset, the better I will feel after finishing.
The best thing about using running as a means of stress management is that during the run I’ll find a way through my problem. When I run, I’m not hiding from the stress, I’m facing it head on and making my life easier whilst I move.
Running Through Grief & Bereavement
When I began training for my first marathon, we’d received the news that my father’s cancer was terminal. Initially, I guess running away was my escape from it.
I didn’t know what to do, say or think at the time but fortunately I had an outlet in running.
It would have been easy to have sank into a mire when he died, but I felt like I owed myself and him better than to just give up.
I’ve kept on running since then. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it has helped.
Running marathons for charities that helped my father during his prolonged illness has been a great way to express my gratitude for their support during a very difficult time. The structure that marathon training gives my life means that I never fall into the way of depression as much anymore.
Running Has Given Me An Increased Quality Of Life
My life isn’t perfect at the moment.
But it’s a hell of a lot better than it was 3 years ago.
Back then I’d have spent all of my time either at work or at my apartment, where I’d deliberately isolate myself to try to escape the judgement of my peers for my weight problem.
Ever since I’ve started running I’ve gained so much self confidence that I now don’t have any problems with going out in public. I’ve stopped caring what insignificant people think of me too.
Now that I’m in control of my weight, I take more pride over my appearance and shop regularly for clothes.
I now have the confidence to go travelling on my own to races all over the UK, Europe and now the World.
My ultimate dream is to travel the world as a runner and live in a few different countries and explore their terrain on foot.
I’m no longer limited by my old fatalistic notion that I’m doomed to a bleak future. I now have the control to do something about my life and all of it is thanks to running.
Running Has Brought A Reduction To My Inner Tension & Comfort Eating
Previously I’d cope with inner tension with comfort eating. I’d react to negative thoughts by having some junk food and little did I know I was just adding to my problems.
I don’t blame myself for acting in this way, when you’re not feeling great, you do what you can to try to feel better.
Now that I run quite a lot I find that it helps a lot to retrieve in inner tension.
If I’m stressed out about something in my life, I don’t resort to alcohol or junk food as much anymore. I go out for a run and it actually helps make my situation better rather than worse.
There are still times where I experience a lot of mental discomfort and boredom, especially at nights. I’m not sure why it descends upon me at that time. One little thought about debt, relationships, the past and the future can lead to a cycle of negativity that is difficult to break from.
Still, now that I run it’s much easier to cope with than in the past!